So there’s something that has recently happened that has nothing to do with professional wrestling or sports that has profoundly affected me that I feel that I need to write about.
For anyone who has read my writings or is friends with me on any form of social media, one thing should be understood: I don’t look back on my time in high school with high regards. Truth is, those four years…aside from meeting some of the best friends I’ve ever made in my entire life, my time spent walking the halls and attending classes at Watchung Hills Regional High School are four years I’d rather not remember.
A little backstory here: growing up, I always was taken out of classes in elementary school for speech sessions. That’s right, I had a lot of speech issues growing up and needed supplemental help in pronouncing and forming my words so that others could properly understand me. Back in those days, having an IEP (Individualized Education Program), being classified, having a case manager and being involved with the Child Study Team wasn’t exactly what all the cool kids were doing. Today, it seems stuff like this is much more accepted, but in the 80s & 90s, we were the bobo kids who got picked on because we were different and the term “resource room” spelled disaster on a social level.
By middle school, I had worked so hard for so long to correct my speech issues that I was finally declassified, and was at last mainstreamed in all of my classes! But then, 8th Grade came long and it was suggested that I be tested for a learning disability, so my parents followed the suggestion and bingo, I was right back in with Special Services. *sigh*
By the end of 8th Grade, my teachers had all made their suggestions to the High School as to where I should be placed in my classes, and while I would receive extra help in the form of one of my elective classes being eaten up by what they called “Supplemental Instruction” — which was basically just a study hall where the Special Ed teacher who’s room we were assigned to, was there to help us with our work should we need it. She also helped to keep tabs on our classes and helped us along the way.
My other classes were all mainstream and for most of them, I had been placed in mostly typical classes, except for my math teacher had suggested that I be placed in an accelerated Algebra class, which apparently the High School ignored, and placed me in the non-accelerated class. My parents and I fought for over a month to get me moved up to accelerated since the time I spent in the non-accelerated class, I found to be boring and far too easy. We eventually did get what we wanted and I still ended up acing that class much to the dismay of the department head — who had given us the attitude of “Don’t blame me when your kid struggles to keep up!”
By the time I reached Junior year, I was tested again and was informed that I had apparently compensated for my learning disability enough that I no longer needed to be classified again! I was out, and this time I was finally out for good. Of course, with it being Junior year and all…the Guidance Counselors were all over us about getting into a good college and pushing everyone along that expected course that you MUST go in order to be successful in this world…because going into a trade school was so looked down upon in those days. Truth is, I probably should’ve been pushed to go to a trade school since college clearly wasn’t for me.
So what I’m trying to get at here is that for my four years at Watchung Hills, even though I was one of the many kids enrolled in Special Services, I was still pushed to do what everybody else was doing…when I clearly wasn’t like everyone else. A couple of my friends were also pushed along the same road (and you know who you are), one went to Community College and quit because again, it was a road that also wasn’t for him, and the other spent 6 years struggling through Community College, then spent another 4 to finally graduate with a degree in Journalism…and while I’m proud of him for never giving up on it, those are 10 years of schooling that he’ll never put to use in his professional life as the manager of the Seafood Department at the local supermarket.
I can remember looking around as I entered the classroom for Supplemental Instruction (or SI, as we called it), just to make sure that nobody saw me enter. Most of my friends never knew I was in Special Services, as I was ashamed to be one of those bobo kids. Watchung Hills is a microcosm of a dystopian society where you were either popular, drove a Mercedes, BMW, Lexus or Infiniti and got along with everyone or you were an outcast, who drove a used american car (for the record, I LOVED my ’86 Pontiac Fiero!) & held a part-time job after school, to be ridiculed by everyone. Most of the teachers didn’t really care…and those who did pay attention to the kids would pay attention to them for the wrong reasons. Take for example, the history teacher whose class everyone wanted to be in simply because he had tenure and never taught as he just would hang out with his girlfriend who was a former student who had graduated a couple of years ahead of me. His “tests” typically consisted of all multiple choice questions in which one of the answers was so out of this world that it couldn’t possibly be the answer — including often being his own name. I should know since I took his class and passed it with flying colors Senior year.
Or how about the two gym teachers who were pretty obviously homosexual and were rewarded with windows in their respective offices which each looked in on the boys’ and girls’ changing rooms. There was also the geometry teacher who if you sucked up to him, listened to his stories about his girlfriend “Sweets” and pretended to be his friend, you tended to do much better in his class!
It’s really sad…a few months ago, when this pandemic started, everyone began sharing around on Facebook a number of questionnaires for fun asking about your times in High School. I avoided the thing like the plague, but actually tried to answer some of the questions in my head to myself, but came to a halt when I came to one question: favorite teacher. And I couldn’t come up with an answer! When I think to teachers who have impacted my life in a profound way, none of them were ever employed at Watchung Hills Regional High School!
Sure, my SI teacher took much more lip from me that she should have (and if you ever read this, I am truly sorry!), and I had a few teachers from electives I took throughout those four years whose classes I truly enjoyed and still connect with on a sporadic basis on social media, but the vast majority of teachers that profoundly altered my trajectory through my school years were all my teachers throughout various years of elementary school.
And while I know that my stories of bullying and being made to feel like an outcast are far from the only ones that exist, and as they say “kids will be kids”…and kids can be really shitty to each other, that’s for sure! It’s up to the adults in charge to make sure that the stuff that happened here in the case of Glenda DeFabio NEVER happens to anyone! While I understand that the school yearbook committee is populated by students, I would expect the overseeing adult(s) to actually do their job to make sure that EVERY student is represented in a non-biased fashion! Whoever was in charge of the 2020 edition of the Watchung Hills Regional High School Yearbook should be held accountable and should lose their job, because they failed this poor girl big time!
But then again, this is just another bad decision made by a school that for the time that I went there, touted the fact that they were a “Nationally Recognized Blue Ribbon School of Excellence”! Keep patting yourselves on the back for not doing right by the kids who need your help the most. I’ll continue trying to forget the years I attended your shitty school.